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Concerns raised over Cree hydro deal

Lucien Bouchard, the former Premier of Quebec, Canada, has been named as mediator by the Grand Council of the Cree and Hydro-Quebec to settle disputes arising from prior agreements. The appointment follows the agreement on 7 February 2002 between the Cree, Hydro-Quebec and the James Bay Energy Corporation to put in place a procedure to settle pending legal proceedings and other matters regarding the performance of Hydro and the energy corporation.

The deal between the provincial government of Quebec and the Cree, an aboriginal group in northern Canada is raising concern among some of the Cree. In a referendum held in February 2002, the Cree voted to accept this new deal, which involves payments of US$1.4B over the next 50 years as compensation for allowing new hydroelectric schemes to go ahead. The deal allows the Quebec government to start work on the 770MW Eastmain hydro project, and the Rupert Diversion to increase the output of the existing La Grande project.

The La Grande project was built amid huge controversy in the 1970s and 1980s and now provides half of all Quebec’s electricity. Since then, the Cree have fought constant legal battles to get compensation for the flooding of thousands of acres of pristine sub-Arctic forests and to block proposed new projects.
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